Christian Science Church Slowly Begins to Reform March 24, 2010

Christian Science Church Slowly Begins to Reform

After hearing all those horrific stories of Christian Science-practicing parents willing to let their children die rather than abandon their destructive and absurd beliefs, I’m glad to hear the church is taking one step forward by allowing followers to see doctors.

It’s not saying much, considering they’ve spent decades walking backwards… But it’s a start.

… faced with dwindling membership and blows to their church’s reputation caused by its intransigence concerning medical treatment, even for children with grave illnesses, Christian Science leaders have recently found a new tolerance for medical care. For more than a year, leaders say, they have been encouraging members to see a physician if they feel it is necessary.

Perhaps more significantly, they have begun a public campaign to redefine their methods as a form of care that the broader public should consider as a supplement rather than a substitute for conventional treatment, like biofeedback, chiropractic or homeopathic care.

In other words, the broader public should understand there’s no credible evidence that “their methods” work and sane people would do best to abandon them altogether.

It’s not a “supplement.” It’s a gigantic waste of time.

It’s a con. Just like Chiropractics. Just like Homeopathy.

The church is still being secretive about how it treats its own people, though, and followers who see actual doctors risk being shunned by their community.

Religious scholars say the church’s past reticence, even secrecy, in the face of what its leaders have considered persecution, makes it difficult to know how widely the new message is being embraced among members, or how long it will last.

Publicly, the church has always said that its members were free to choose medical care. But some former Christian Scientists say those who consult doctors risk ostracism.

Church officials recently permitted two practitioners and two patients to talk about Christian Science treatments with a reporter from The New York Times — a rare public discussion that they said they hoped would demonstrate the commitment to transparency, and would help people understand their beliefs.

They would not discuss the care of children or let a reporter witness a treatment session. And neither practitioner was willing to discuss the new flexibility described by [church spokesperson] Mr. [Philip] Davis.

These new practices won’t bring back Madeline Kara Neumann or give Liz Heywood back her leg.

But maybe with this change of heart from the church, their tragedies don’t have to be in vain.

(Thanks to Karen for the link)


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  • littlejohn

    But once they start condoning doctor visits, what will be the rationalization for the existence of their particular sect? Aren’t they effectively committing suicide as an institution if they permit medical procedures?

  • mkb

    I don’t think that the Neumann’s are Christian Scientists.

  • Vas

    Christian Science, Chiropractics,Homeopathy,Energy/Crystal Healing, and Psychotherapy.
    Just to add to the fake science list. There are tons more scam sciences for making people “better” please add to this list if you like.

  • Karen

    What’s interesting is that accepting doctor visits goes directly against the very concepts at the heart of Christian Science doctrine (and as one raised in the religion, I would know).

    I suspect this is in part because of prosecutions of parents whose children have died (as well as their declining membership numbers). So maybe the pressure is working, at least a little.

    Karen

  • I can’t imagine watching my child die and then seeing the people who TOLD me to let my child die change their tune.

    Ugh.

  • Richard Wade

    If they are being more open to medical care officially, but members still end up being ostracized for using it, then that will probably accelerate the loss of members rather than slow it down.

    As littlejohn points out, they will no longer have an important distinguishing injunction that keeps them from straying to other sects. But if they are still socially penalized for straying to other secular remedies, I think that will drive away many more even faster. They’ll have one less reason to stay and one more reason to go.

  • bigjohn756

    I believe this. Just like I believe that Christian Science is a proper religion.

  • Kid A

    “…faced with dwindling membership and blows to their church’s reputation caused by its intransigence concerning medical treatment, even for children with grave illnesses, Christian Science leaders have recently found a new tolerance for medical care.”

    In other words, IF they weren’t faced with dwindling membership and bad PR, THEN they wouldn’t be doing this. Nice.

  • Maybe they are just being practical. If health-care is becoming mandatory in the coming years (unless you pay a penalty) you might as well get something (care) for your money. In the big picture, the passage of the health-care bill may end-up killing Christian Science and many other forms of woo as a substitute for medical treatment.

  • Tizzle

    Why ar folks against chiropractics? If/whn my back is out of alignmnt, I go to 1. This appars common in skptic community, & I think it is strang. (Which is not to say I think thy can cur asthma.)

    *sorry: can’t typ a crtain lttr, bcaus of coff spill.

  • fritzy

    Yeah, I’m with Tizzle. I really don’t understand this about the skeptical community. I used to be skeptical of Chiros as well. And yes, a lot of what is practiced in the Chiropractic world is nonsense–but not all of it. I have received a great deal of pain relief from my chiro. Considering there is considerable research to back up the musculoskeletal benefits of joint mobilization, active release technique, myofacial release and craniosacral therapy, it is not really fair, or scientifically sound to lump ALL Chiropratics in with crystals and astrology. Yeah, when they claim they can cure cancer or asthma, they deserve every bit of criticism they receive. When they rail against innoculations, they deserve to be demonized. But don’t toss the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. For 15 years I had moderate to severe headaches 3-5 times a week. Now, in a bad month, I’ll have maybe two mild to moderate headaches in the entire month. Give credit where credit is due. Attack the specific claims that some chiropractioners make, not the profession as a whole.

  • Jeff Dale

    We should all omi a cerain leer when we ype. Makes hings ineresing.

    If true, that must be very annoying. You could find the letter somewhere on the page, copy it (Ctrl+C), then paste it (Ctrl+V) each time you need it as you’re typing. Imperfect, but maybe worthwhile if you want that letter.

  • Chiropractors, homeopaths, crystal healers, voodoo doctors and thinking happy thoughts can be used to treat medical conditions and you can feel better afterwards. That isn’t because of the “treatment” though because the “treatment” isn’t treating your condition, it is treating your perception of the symptoms.

    They are pseudo-science and bullshit and that is why so many sceptics are against them.

  • Too little, WAY too late.

    And isn’t it, you know, time for their little faith-healing cult to die out?

  • Tizzle

    @Jeff, I have an app for that, but my phone was in the other room or something. I’ve done the ctrl-v on occasion.

    Interesting fact: a person could type sentences without an ‘e’, if they have a large vocabulary, but not if the ‘d’ also doesn’t work. 🙂

  • Aaron

    @fritzy
    The skeptical community does not like chiropractors because the science is bad. Just because some of the woo they practice actually works, does not mean that they know what they are doing.
    There are real medical practitioners of the working version of chiropractics, who call themselves physical therapists, that have been trained to distinguish between when their procedures are medically useful and when they are useless or even harmful. This is what chiropractors lack, any real scientific knowledge of WHY their procedures work, and WHEN to use them. If they had that knowledge they would toss aside the label chiropractor just as chemists left behind the label alchemist, and astronomer with astrologer. As long as they use the label they are promoting the snake oil.

  • Disappointed

    I am disappointed that those who have made comments about Christian Science and/or its healing haven’t done a little more homework. There are testimonies of healing, which have been verified by doctors themselves.
    I know of no Christian Scientist being ostracized for choosing to see a doctor or use medicine and I have been a Christian Scientist for a long time. I know of nothing from the church, or practitioners I know, that says it is a supplement. And I find it interesting that although a recent article in the New York Times commented that in the 1980’s & 90’s half a dozen – 6 – children died because they didn’t get medical treatment, there was no mention of the information given in the 3/16 Internet article in Kaiser Health Care News where it stated, “Errors made by doctors, nurses, and other medical caregivers cause 44,000-90,000 deaths a year.” Also, “Hospital infections, many of them preventable, take another 100,000 lives.” Articles in the papers are not criticizing the medical field but just stating them as being facts. It is really difficult and sad when anyone dies, but Christian Science parents are doing what has worked for them – there are five generations of them in my family.

  • muggle

    Whatever… Let’s not discourage their encouraging medical treatment even if wrongly motivated.

    “Put one foot in front of the other
    And soon you’ll be walking across the floor
    Put one foot in front of the other
    And soon you’ll be walking out the door.”

  • One thing most skeptics either don’t know or don’t care about, is that medical doctors are the third highest cause of death in the US. That is to say, that western medicine and understanding is the third highest cause of death, killing at least 250,000 people a year.

    With this in mind, I find it a little hard to emphathise with people who strongly advocate only following western medicine thought. I certainly don’t want to die due to a doctor’s misdiagnosis.

  • Chris A

    As an atheist who was raised a Christian Scientist, I have to agree with @Disappointed that there are a lot of people here ready to criticize something they know almost nothing about.

    It was always quite clear to me that the church understood that different people were at different stages in their ability to have absolute faith, and that those who weren’t ready to put all of their faith in god were free to do whatever they wanted, including going to see a doctor.

  • AnonCS

    Christian Scientists have always been allowed to see doctors, and would a doctor be able to grow back a leg. The Christian Science church doesn’t shun people for seeing a doctor and I’ll think you’ll find there is plenty of credible evidence for the Christian Science method to work, look in the Fruitage section of S&H or in the Bible because the method that Jesus used 2000 years ago, is the method that Christian Scientists use today.

  • Christian Scientists have always been allowed to see doctors, and would a doctor be able to grow back a leg.

    I don’t understand your linking these two clauses into one sentence. Are you saying that Christian Scientists should not bother seeing doctors because doctors can’t grow back legs? Are you saying that Christian Scientists can grow back legs?

    …I’ll think you’ll find there is plenty of credible evidence for the Christian Science method to work, look in the Fruitage section of S&H or in the Bible…

    Credible evidence is physical evidence, observed and documented under carefully controlled conditions, then confirmed by disinterested parties. Testimonials, whether modern or thousands of years old, are no more credible than grandpa’s spooky campfire stories, and are not credible evidence.

    …because the method that Jesus used 2000 years ago, is the method that Christian Scientists use today.

    This would explain the thousands of Christian Scientists who are curing each others’ blindness with a touch, their leprosy with a touch, and of course bringing each other back to life after being dead for four days. What it doesn’t explain is why the Christian Science Church is not running the American Medical Association, The Center for Disease Control, and the World Health Organization.

    Maybe it has something to do with the credibility of the evidence. Unless you can show someone growing back a leg, you don’t have a leg to stand on.